Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Establishing Provenance

 A couple of weeks ago, I received an email asking me about a photo. A woman in Colorado was going through her father's things after he passed away. Among them was a photo album, the origin of which she was unsure. She believed it belonged to her grandfather but it may have been older than that. It included several photographs of Merriner Wood Merrill (of the Quorum of the Twelve) and probably his wives but for the most part they were not labeled and she was having a hard time identifying who were in the images. One of the photos, however, had an inscription. It was little hard to read but she was pretty sure it said.....

"Tribute To the memory of Elders W.S. Berry and J.H Gibbs Who were slain at Condors' Farm, Tenn Aug 10,1884"

She had no idea what this meant so she went to the internet and found my blog. I had indeed seen the photo before.

Several emails later she asked if I would like to have the photo card. She was donating the photos in the album to the DUP, but thought I might appreciate the photo of Gibbs and Berry more. I certainly thought so.

But I wondered at the origins of the photo card. It probably was not placed in the album by her grandfather. He had not been born yet in 1884 And I was not aware of any relations between the Merrills and either the Gibbs or Berry families. I thought it would mean a bit more if I could figure out why this photo meant enough to the family to preserve, but not enough to pass of a story about why. So I did a little digging.

Her grandfather, Daphney Merrill Sharp, who she thought the album belong to, had relatives who served in the Southern States mission. His father Joseph Palmer Sharp served in Louisiana in 1897, but he was only 10 years old in 1884, so he couldn't have known Gibbs or Berry. J. P. Sharp's father also served in the Southern States, in 1877. He actually labored in Tennessee. His name was John C. Sharp. He never made it to Cane Creek, but his companion Joseph Argyle was the first missionary to Cane Creek, in 1879.

But with the Merrills being in the album, the more logical direction was that side of the family. That is when I found an uncle, Thomas Hazen Merrill, who also served in the Southern States. He even shows up in Elder Gibbs journal. In fact, he was Gibb's very first companion. Thomas was one of Merriner W. Merrill's sons. It made me wonder who actually put the album together. Would you put the death notice of your uncle's missionary companion in your family album? Would you put an image of some one famous in that album because your uncle knew him?

I'll probably never know exactly why this image was meaningful enough to include in a family album. Perhaps the death of these two elders had a profound effect on whoever put those pictures together. Maybe it was just among someone's personal items and the album maker had just put everything they found in the album. Regardless I enjoyed my little adventure and I'll certainly enjoy having the photo card.

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